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Main Line football teams fired up during Heat Acclimation week

Ardmore >> With the 2018 PIAA high school football season’s five-day heat acclimation period starting Monday, there was plenty of heat to get accustomed to, as temperatures soared into the 90s. But the heat didn’t wilt the enthusiasm of local high school football players.
Following Tuesday morning’s practice session, Lower Merion senior quarterback Matt O’Connor said, “It was great to be out here, doing what you love. We’ve been working all winter, spring and [part of the] summer for this.”
Lower Merion senior defensive back Jalen Goodman said, “We were working hard out there today – it was hot but we got a lot of work in for the short time we were out here. It’s tiring, but we’ve been playing through it, installing our new plays with the new coaches’ system.”
LM’s new coach, Evan Breisblatt, said, “We were excited to come out for Heat Acclimation, and we had 48 kids show up. Finally get to put the shoulder pads and helmets on, and work on our fundamentals – make sure that our techniques are correct before anything else; I think that comes before working on any kind of scheme. And it’s great to have an opportunity to have all the guys here – not just have bits and pieces out on the field, like we had earlier this summer.
“It was fast-paced today, and I didn’t know if the players would be able to keep it up, but we’ve got good athletes in good shape. Earlier this summer, the guys could lift and condition themselves, so I expected the players to be in shape when they got here, so they could go through a two or 2 ½ hour practice without getting really fatigued in this heat – and it’s hot out here. The summer workouts and the off-season conditioning are so important.”
Breisblatt, who was the head coach at Phoenixville High School the past four years, and whose coaching career has included stints at Coatesville, Unionvile, Kennett and Pequea Valley, is taking over a team that has not enjoyed a winning season since 1992. He reflected on that challenge.
“We’ve got to break some habits, and we’ve got to start a new culture here – it’s a collective bunch of guys getting together with one belief, and that belief is to do it the right way, that’s the only way,” said Breisblatt. “It’s not going to happen overnight; however, I told the seniors that they don’t have much time, and we happen to be loaded with [20] seniors this year, so we’ve got to start right now with changing the losing culture. Losing creates bad habits, winners don’t become champions at the end of the season, they become champions at the beginning of the season when they do things the right way, and I want to emulate some mentors of mine, the way they do things – Mike Matta from Downingtown East, Rick Pennypacker from Pottsgrove, Mike Ricci from Garnet Valley, just to name a few.”
Similar to Lower Merion, Conestoga began its Heat Acclimation period under a new head coach, Matt Diamond, who was a first team all-area quarterback and defensive back for the Pioneers in the late 1990s, and an all-league defensive back at Gettysburg College.
“We have about 60 kids out here this week, and they’re really excited about the new start,” said Diamond. “It’s the first time we’ve had the whole team together. As the head coach you have a very influential role on these young men, and I am excited to have them working hard to achieve their goals. There is no place I would rather be coaching at than Conestoga – I have seen many great kids come through this program.”
Over at Great Valley High School, following the Patriots’ Monday evening session, senior quarterback Jake Prevost said, “In this heat, you gotta keep hydrating, keep drinking water. I thought we had a good first day – I’m really excited about this year. I keep telling the guys [on offense], ‘Don’t worry about the heat, we’ve got to keep going, we can’t let it bother us, we’ve got to get better every play.’ I thought our tempo was good for the first day of practice. I’m really excited about our new offense, and I really like the pace we’re going at.”
Great Valley senior defensive back Josh Burgess said, “This week is about working on the fundamentals. I thought the energy today on defense was great, we were flying around to the ball and making the plays. We were on [summer] vacation last week, and it’s great to be back.”
Great Valley running backs coach Marquis Weeks said, “The shoulder pads and helmets bring a whole new dimension [to this week’s Heat Acclimation sessions]. They had to get used to carrying those around, it was humid out here today. The running backs are focusing on getting their timing down – they know the plays pretty well, but the timing has to come [with practice].”

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